Computer Migration

Last week I upgraded my PC computer. Since my games machine often doubles as my work machine, it normally being the most powerful computer I own, I had to migrate my work stuff to the new machine this week.

Back in the bad old days, I used to dread this. I would needed to have locate a large number of disks and activation codes and installed my software onto the new computer. I would have had to burn CDs, DVDs or used an external hard-drive to shift my data. There would have been a lot of fumbling as I tried to locate various essential items, failed and had to find a workaround.

One of the great appeals of Apple’s Macintosh machines is the ease of migrating to a new one. Once upon a time this was done with firewire cables and Migration Assistant. These days all you need is a time machine backup on an external hard-drive. There is similar software available for Windows apparently but I don’t own it so I was going to have to do things the hard way.

The App Store is great for migration as well. Being able to automatically install all the software you have paid for on a new machine without the hassle of license keys is appealing. Since there won’t be a Windows App Store until Windows 8 I was going to have to do things the old fashioned way. Sort of. A few things were different. This time it was actually a lot easier.

That is mostly down to the Cloud. The first thing I did was install Dropbox on the new machine. Since I keep all my work files in Dropbox, it meant all of those were synched in pretty short order. Also in Dropbox I keep my encrypted 1Password files and backups of my Firefox Preferences. I imported the preferences, installed 1Password and its browser extensions and I was back up and running in a perfect replica of my normal browser experience. I could, of course, simply set up Firefox to synchronise my bookmarks over all my machines which would make this even easier.

(For those of you who have never used it, 1Password is a password vault, a program that memorises your various logins and passwords and keeps them in an encrypted format, then produces them securely for you when you try to log-in to your Amazon account, Gmail, whatever. It started life on the Mac but is now also available for Windows. It works very well. I used to use Lastpass, which was also excellent but there was a minor security scare a couple of years back which got me to switch to 1Password.)

Anyway, with my internet connection up and running it was time to install Microsoft Office. This went as straightforwardly as usual. I use Excel and Word constantly and Outlook is a pretty decent email client let down only by the primitive way it interfaces with Google Calendar. I had to break out the disks and the Licensing codes for this one. I copied the passwords for my email accounts from 1Password and downloaded my email using IMAP which keeps everything in sync across all my machines.

It was more disks for Dragon Naturally Speaking. If you feel like using this speech recognition software, here is a quick tip from a guy doesn’t read the manual unless forced to. You absolutely must install this program inside an Administrator account otherwise you are setting yourself up for an afternoon of sheer frustration and bizzaro error messages. Simply giving the installation Administrator permissions from the account control box will just not cut it. I must have known this once because I have installed Dragon Naturally Speaking successfully many times. I did not remember it this time though. Not fun.

After Dragon, I downloaded and installed Evernote, which I use for clipping and keeping my notes in. This synchs with your existing account over the net. Pretty soon I had all my notes back with me.

My computer came with Windows Live Essentials installed so this just meant setting up an account on Windows Live Writer so I could blog. I copied the details from 1Password and was good to go. It’s what I am writing this on.

After this, it was Scrivener for Windows. I normally work in Scrivener on OSX but I like to keep the Windows version on-hand in case of need. In any case, thats it. I am ready to work on pretty much anything that comes my way. It was all relatively painless. Use of cloud based software like Dropbox and Evernote certainly helped with this. I would imagine a Windows App store will make the process even easier in the future. There might be something to this cloud thing.

(I have talked about a lot of this software before here.)



  1. Michael Mooney says:

    Not being a gamer, I don’t have an excuse to upgrade computer as often as the geek in me would like. In fact, I seem to be asking less from my computer as the years go by, since I tend to use Office and and a browser and nothing else (ah, how I miss Photoshop – come to think of it, I miss Mac Draw). I’m no longer limited by processor speed or even, now that I use the Cloud for music storage, hard drive space. It’s all about the size of my pipe, now (a common anxiety amongst middle aged men, I hear). One unintended consequence of that is that when I move next the speed of my internet connection will become a large factor in looking for a house.

    • If it wasn’t for the games and the speech recognition software I could probably get by with a netbook or something of about that power. There is also the fact that I like computers to be born in mind. I have probably bought at least one a year for God knows how long. I do think we’re just at the start of the Cloud era.

  2. I’m a gamer, too, Bill, and I use my gaming machine as my main writing machine just as you do. I often feel it’s a mistake, though. Can’t tell you how many times my mouse has slipped and double-clicked on, say, the Skyrim icon instead of Scrivener. What follows is hours of fun, then gut-twisting guilt, then days of panicked anguish as I try to hit a deadline.

    There’s a lot to be said for having a wheezy, just-capable-and-no-more, work-only machine in a different room, I think. 😉

    • I used to know this problem well, Steve! These days, since the baby came, I mostly work out of the house, in cafes or in a shared workspace and I use a MacBook Air on which gaming is not really an option. With the game machine, it tends to work the opposite way it used to. I can be playing Guild Wars in the evening and if the notion takes me I can quickly write down an idea or sketch out a scene that’s on my mind. Also I like having the sheer processor grunt if I need to use Dragon Naturally Speaking when my RSI plays up, and gaming rigs have that in spades. So far since I bought the machine that’s not happened but its nice to know its there :).

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